Monday, August 3, 2009

A Twist of Truth

I've written about it before -- the scare tactics of misinformation. I guess I didn't quite understand how it came to be and why it was so successful. Recently a friend sent me an email that was really a forward of something she got from her gynecologist. It detailed, by line and section for extra authority, horrible things in the health care reform bill.
I wandered around on the Internet until I found a bill that sort of matched up with the page numbers in the email and found that the doctor was probably looking at the Energy and Labor bill. Within the long list of complaints was "Page 42 --The 'Health Choices Commissioner' will choose your Healthcare Benefits for you. You have no choice." First of all, putting Health Choices Commissioner in parentheses is like sneering or making fun of the proposed title. The reality in the bill is the Commissioner is responsible for, among other things, establishing the health plan benefits standards. The particular reference in the doctor's analysis is to the responsibilities of the position. Later in the bill are the specifics that would provide for tiers of coverage with basics required and others available for purchase.
What the doctor, or his source, did was to slightly twist what was said to make it sound very threatening.
Another example from the doctor -- "Page 58 - Government will have real-time access to individual's finances and a National ID Healthcard will be issued." What the bill actually says:
(D) enable the real-time (or near real-time) determination of an individual’s financial responsibility at the point of service and, to the extent possible, prior to service, including whether the individual is eligible for a specific service with a specific physician at a specific facility, which may include utilization of a machine-readable health plan beneficiary identification card;
If you have had a medical procedure done at a hospital lately, the hospital may have pre-certified you with your insurance company. Recently, I had a procedure done at my local hospital where they checked with my insurance company and could tell me "Your insurance covers this procedure and your co-pay is $250 which you will need to be prepared to pay at the time of service." This is the same thing described in the bill with the addition of a machine-readable ID card that would allow the health care provider to scan rather than typing to get the information more quickly. Nothing in this says to me that the government would have real-time access to my financials. As for the Healthcare ID card, I have one already called a health insurance card. You probably do also if you are lucky enough to have health insurance. Again, there is twisting of information to make it all sound very scary and "socialist."
In another case, the doctor's information indicated "Page 59 lines 21-24- Government will have direct access to your bank fund accounts for electronic funds transfer." Yep, those lines talk about electronic funds transfer from the insurance provider to the healthcare provider. Nothing about direct access from a personal account. Either the doctor (or his source) did not read the entire section, or the doctor wanted to make it sound very scary.
I could go on and on as the doctor did listing 55 instances in the first half of the bill. But I will limit myself to just one more category of these misstatements, one that received a fair amount of media coverage in connection with the President's forum with AARP. All are contained in a section about Advanced Care Planning Consultation.
The doctor's information calls it a mandate that would require EVERYONE who is on Social Security to undergo a counseling session every 5 years with "end of life counseling." It goes on to say the government will instruct and consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney and it will be mandatory. The government will provide an approved list of end of life resources, guiding you in death. The government mandates program for end of life. The government has a say in how your life ends. He says an advanced care consultation may include an ORDER for end of life plans -- AN ORDER from the government. The government will specify which doctors can write an end of life order and the government will decide what level of treatment you will have at end of life. As this doctor's information describes, the government would take charge of an individual's end of life.
In reality, what the doctor describes could not be farther from the truth. The bill adds to medicare benefits periodic counseling on advanced directives. Thus, the government would pay for an individual to talk to his or her doctor or physician's assistant or nurse practitioner about how they want to be treated under different sets of conditions. The bill also provides for the doctor to write an order describing the individual's wishes and for that order to be enforceable throughout the country.
To understand the benefits of this legislation, one must understand the current situation. As things stand right now, an individual can have the necessary advanced directives to assure how they would be treated in conditions that are potentially life ending. Those directives, however, might not apply if you are in a different state from where they were written. Those directives would most certainly not be followed if the people where the accident or heart attack or whatever happens have no way of knowing that advanced directives even exist. This proposed legislation would provide consistency throughout the country that actually gives the individual more say over end of life issues.
These are just a few examples out of many in one particular email, but they are representative of a very sad story going on in our country as misinformation, distortions and outright lies are substituting for education. I am glad my friend sent me this email, but she is probably very sorry she sent it. I think she wanted to "educate" me about the terrible things our government supposedly wants to impose on me. What she got back from me was a lecture on educating herself, not taking as truth what someone else interprets for her. What I got was an up-close look at how the truth gets twisted and an education in how these things are manufactured to create propaganda.

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